Self Help.

The widest variety of books in any bookshop can be found in the “Self Help” sections. The one industry that did not suffer during the recent recession is the self help industry. In fact, it is reported to have grown faster than ever before.

What does that say about all those people who are willing to spend money to improve themselves? From what condition of existence to what? Why is there such a strident demand for such advise? Why are these people not satisfied with the status quo?

The answer is in one word. Conditioning. We must de-condition ourselves, if that is the word/phrase to use.

Uddhared ātmanātmānaḿ

nātmānam avasādayet

ātmaiva hy ātmano bandhur

ātmaiva ripur ātmanaḥ.

Bhagwat Gita Ch VI Verse 5.

uddharet — one must deliver; ātmanā — by the mind; ātmānam — the conditioned soul; na — never; ātmānam — the conditioned soul; avasādayetput into degradation; ātmā — mind; eva — certainly; hi — indeed; ātmanaḥ — of the conditioned soul; bandhuḥ — friend; ātmā — mind; eva — certainly; ripuḥ — enemy; ātmanaḥ — of the conditioned soul.

One must deliver himself with the help of his mind, and not degrade himself. The mind is the friend of the conditioned soul, and his enemy as well.

Bandhur ātmātmanas tasya

yenātmaivātmanā jitaḥ

anātmanas tu śatrutve

vartetātmaiva śatru-vat

Bhagwat Gita Ch VI Verse 6

bandhuḥ — friend; ātmā — the mind; ātmanaḥ — of the living entity; tasya — of him; yena — by whom; ātmā — the mind; eva — certainly; ātmanā — by the living entity; jitaḥ — conquered; anātmanaḥ — of one who has failed to control the mind; tu — but; śatrutve — because of enmity; varteta — remains; ātmā eva — the very mind; śatruvatas an enemy.

For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his mind will remain the greatest enemy.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post on the weekly Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium where eleven of us write on the same topic. Today’s topic has been chosen by yours truly. The ten other bloggers who write regularly are, in alphabetical order, Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Maxi, Maria SF, Padmum, Paul, Shackman, The Old Fossil and Will. Do drop in on their blogs and see what their take is on this week’s topic. Since some of them may post late, do give some allowance for that too!

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31 Responses to Self Help.

  1. Ursula says:

    Can’t wait for Jean to answer this. A fully blown argument awaiting. Between whom? HA. That’s for me to know and for everyone else to be thoroughly bored with.

    I dispute your assertion that “the WIDEST variety … can be found in the self-help section”. There is NO VARIETY, there is only QUANTITY in a market that plays on people’s insecurities. Because remember, Ramana (insert sarcastic smilie): None of us is good enough. Apparently. We are all like dresses (ask Grannymar): Let out a bit of hem there, nip in the waist here, die the damn garment if need be and hey presto …. REPEAT THIS AT AD NAUSEAM.

    People are not “conditioned” as you say, Ramana. They are insecure. They are never ‘good enough’. It’s just all such shite. Don’t get me wrong: I too have self help books on my shelf. Titles, like “Meet the Buddha on the Road and kill him”, “Zen motorcycle maintenance” or some such. I particularly like “Games that people play”.

    Let’s put it this way: When I go into a book shop and happen to come across the crammed to the ceiling ‘self help area’ my urge to puke is so strong I flee the place.

    As to true self help, and I hope Looney will agree with me: Seek out the philosophers. Plenty of them will ‘help’ you. Might take a little longer than those prescriptive list makers for the plebs but, oooohhhhh, so much more satisfying.

    Can’t wait for the first comment to quote “Only those who help themselves ….” Yes, only those who help themselves will be fed which is why I rarely plate food and let everyone make a pig of themselves round the table, to their hearts’ desire.

    Ursula recently posted..Arctic Kiss

    • Rummuser says:

      I would defend myself by saying that the sense of insecurity is a result of conditioning by ‘others’ by implicit or explicit methods.

      You need not go very far. Here is something that will lift your spirits –

      • R,
        Have you read the book? I just looked at the description on Amazon and it didn’t appeal to me. I agree with the basic question, “What is the good life, and how we can live it?” When I was a teen I decided that was the question I was most interested in. I figured it out for my own life, but my guess is other people would come up with different answers for them. What do you think? What is the good life for you? My guess is you’re living it right now.
        Cheerful Monk recently posted..More “Not Agin ‘Em All”

        • Rummuser says:

          Yes. I bought it primarily because it ties in with my current interest in the father and son duo Skidelskies, Theodore Zeldin and Roman Krznaric. Here is a kind of dialogue between a trained philosopher and a trained therapist that takes the subject of the good life to some new insights.

  2. tammy j says:

    my favorite self help ‘books’ are quotations from witty urbane wise and humorous people. and no. i don’t like commas any more than i like capital letters! so superfluous. only my opinion of course. just like self help books.
    ursula cracks me up.
    tammy j recently posted..the wren house

  3. shackman says:

    I think U has it right – insecurities are the engine that drive the vehicle/machine that powers the self-help industry. Conditioned? Not sure I agree with that term but we are certainly barraged by ads claiming to offer the road to salvation from our ills – real and imagined.

    This topic is proving much more interesting then I imagined it would be.
    shackman recently posted..Self Improvement

    • Rummuser says:

      As I have already responded to Ursula, I believe that insecurities are due to conditioning that one has to BE something other than what one is or made to believe to be. In our world, conditioning is an 24/7 ongoing process and if frightening in its intensity when when one pays attention to it. Most of it is in the background and we are not conscious of such conditioning and that is the point of the subduing of the mind that I have quoted from the BG.

      • Yes, there is a lot of pressure to conform to others’ expectations. And I think there are a lot of books that help people to resist and create a more suitable life for themselves. I’m not comfortable with the idea of subduing the mind. For me it’s more increasing awareness and seeing more possibilities. Often that can be life changing. See, as one example, The Power of Focusing. A simple approach that works for a lot of people. I don’t think the subtitle A Practical Guide to Self-Healing is necessary. It’s just another technique to enrich our lives, no need to assume we’re somehow sick. I figure our parents and society gave us a rough draft of our selves. It’s our job to do the rewriting if we think it needs improvement. It’s just part of being a creative being.
        Cheerful Monk recently posted..More “Not Agin ‘Em All”

  4. Maxi says:

    It never occurred to me that the mind can be my greatest friend or worst enemy. It is true.
    Blessings ~ Maxi
    Maxi recently posted..Upgrade Develops With Age

  5. My mind sure qualifies as my buddy, but I don’t know that I conquered it. I engaged it, to be certain. But conquering it seems a bit akin to the often repeated religious sense that the body is somehow inferior and must be mastered.

    I kind of like the viewpoint of harmonizing with. Also, I am not sure what this self is that is separate from the mind … so, I’ll ask my mind to see if it can figure it out. Thanks in advance, mind.
    The Old Fossil recently posted..Self Improvement

  6. Cathy in NZ says:

    and what of the authors…why are they writing more and more on the matters at hand. Not many of them could be classed as perfectly in control of their selves. I suppose they research some one else’s perfectly fine prose and think I can do better!

    Economy downturn has the public believing that there must be something wrong with the way they are building their lives…therefore they should read anything they can get their hands/mind on to get it all back on track…

    What annoys me about these books…is that there seem to be no catch-all books for when you have got your life on track. Yes, I can read about one or two successes but they are always at the end of the spectrum not, in the middle of how they ado(a)pted the methods.

    So I guess the best thing to do is keep your mind active, read the daily news, read anything that interests one and practice what you want 🙂
    Cathy in NZ recently posted..Front of house

    • Rummuser says:

      “Preacher please practice” must be difficult for the authors but as long as they get what they want, ie sales of their output, all good luck to them. Caveat emptor!

      • Actually I taught/led groups in stress management and dealing with difficult people for about ten years. A few people got a lot out of it, but I did it mainly to make sure I practiced what I preached. As they say, if you want to learn something try to teach it to others. (I didn’t charge anything for the classes/groups.)
        Cheerful Monk recently posted..More “Not Agin ‘Em All”

  7. wisewebwoman says:

    I think that “self-help” books are a misnomer to say the least. The self should help itself, certainly, but not to other selves who bear no relationship to the self seeking the help but who insist on writing these books to earn staggering loads of moolah.
    I hope this makes sense, but if not what of it.
    wisewebwoman recently posted..Love Stories

  8. Delirious says:

    I wrote about physical self improvement, but I do think that mental self improvement is the most difficult to acheive.
    Delirious recently posted..Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium: Self Improvement

  9. If what you’re doing is working for you, go for it. If not, try something else…or not. Your choice.

    I don’t understand animosity about self-help books. For me the author either has some suggestions that are useful or he/she doesn’t. Sure, a lot of them over-hype, but apparently a lot of people feel they’re worth the money for them. My guess is it keeps them from feeling trapped–there are things they can do to change their circumstances. I’m pretty sure my mother would have preferred my father to read self-help books than to spend his time drinking in saloons. A much less expensive way to put a little joy into one’s life.

    As I recall, Ramana, you once said you never read a self-help book (correct me if I’m wrong). So do you agree with your quote: “For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his mind will remain the greatest enemy.” Have you ever tried to conquer your mind?

    For me personally, trying to conquer my mind wouldn’t work. I learned long ago that my subconscious mind was the one in charge. It was best to make friends with it. 😀
    Cheerful Monk recently posted..More “Not Agin ‘Em All”

    • PS For curiosity I looked on Amazon for self-help books. There are some that are free for a kindle and a lot of others are less than the price of a movie. At least less than movies cost here. How much are they where you are, Ramana?
      Cheerful Monk recently posted..More “Not Agin ‘Em All”

    • Rummuser says:

      I have no animosity towards self help books. I wrote about them to point out that human beings are looking to change themselves from something to something else.

      I do not recollect saying that because I have had my share of Norman Vincent Peal, Dale Carnegie, Ayn Rand in my youth and one could say that my spiritual pursuits are certainly towards a form of self help. I do not read, that is in the present tense the modern self help books but do read books on philosophy and psychology and now a great deal of history too.

      Conquering the mind does not quite translate the way the original Sanskrit message intends. There is another explanation in Chapter VI verse 34 about which you can get an idea here –

      And I would reiterate, I am on the path. I am not an enlightened master.

      • I wasn’t saying you had animosity, although apparently some people do. I’m not even sure what some people mean by self-help books. It seems any book that you learn from is self-help. In that sense one of the most exciting ones I’ve ever read was a book on calculus when I was in high school. That was before calculus was taught in h.s. and I still remember how exciting it was to learn how to solve problems with it. (Yes, I know. I’m a hopeless case that way. 🙂 ) I do best learning outside of classes, and thanks to the internet and books it’s easy to get help when I need it.

        I like the concept of beginner’s mind. It keeps ego concerns out if it and keeps everything fresh and exciting.
        Cheerful Monk recently posted..More “Not Agin ‘Em All”

  10. Grannymar says:

    We should learn from young children, they have no fear or complexes until adults condition them.
    Grannymar recently posted..Self improvement.

    • Rummuser says:

      A very valid observation and goes to buttress my argument that it is conditioning that is responsible for the feeling of inadequacy.

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